Running Lake Baikal: Five Prep Rules


On March 1, 2010, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab will embark on the i2P Siberian Express for Water Expedition. They will run 65 to 70 kilometers per day across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, which is 636 kilometers long–carrying all the food and gear for the entire trip. They'd like to finish in 10 to 12 days, which would be a world record, according to Vallely. Why go through such trouble? To raise awareness and funding for clean drinking water projects around the world and inspire students through the i2P experiential learning program. Here is the first in a series of their dispatches for Outside Online.

We're hunkered down in the Canadian North, preparing. Our traverse of Lake Baikal will be an extremely demanding adventure: We plan to run almost two marathons a day across the frozen surface of the oldest, deepest lake in the world, pulling sleds exceeding 100 pounds. It's absolutely critical to mimic the conditions we’ll face, and there’s no better place for this than Canada's Great Slave Lake, NorthAmerica's deepest. This first dabbling in extreme cold since our trek to the South Pole last year is as frigid as we’d hoped–it was -40C on the ice last night.

The groundwork before an expedition is crucial to its success. Here are our five simple prep rules:

1. Have a clear and specific goal: A clear goal is part of what makes for a successful adventure. The goal of i2P in general is to inspire and educate youth to create positive change. A successful completion to an expedition is important to us but not as important as what it could inspire.

2. Mimic conditions: It’s essential to know what you're up against. Our trek across Lake Baikal entails long, cold days on the frozen surface of one of the world's largest lakes. We’re preparing by practicing our daily routine over and over again to minimize delays and mistakes on the ice.

3. Prepare physically and mentally: Trekking unsupported to the South Pole in world-record time last year was incredibly difficult for us, and we’ll need to draw upon that invaluable experience for Lake Baikal. Physically, we must never cut corners in training, and mentally, we must get ready for the most difficult days imaginable, when we'll be far away from our families.

4. Know your equipment: Primarily, we're at Great Slave Lake to test our equipment in conditions similar to what we’ll experience on Lake Baikal. We'll run with and pack our sleds, set up a tent in a gale, and simply try to tie our laces with gloves on. We've already discovered problems with our stoves and mattresses, which we’ll fix before our next field-training session.

5. Tread lightly: As with any adventure, we want to minimize the impact on the environment while maximizing the impact of our message to youth. For this expedition, we’ll consult with the experts at GreenNexxus and offset our carbon emissions, including our travel to and from Russia and all fuel burned during the expedition. And, as with all our adventures, if we pack it in, we’ll pack it out!

–Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab